Competency-Based Learning

Our educational body is the only one of its kind to integrate a competency-based approach to its online courses. Each course is defined by a set of competencies that mirrors and builds on existing literature and competency frameworks as developed by leading humanitarian organizations. 

Humanitarian organizations can be assured that graduates of Humanitarian U have had their progress monitored and knowledge and skills evaluated, and therefore meet the rigorous requirements to receive a certificate. 


Why is Competency-based learning more effective?

Competency-based learning (CBL) is proven to be most effective in adult learners:

  • CBL focuses on action, application, and critical reflection, which is of particular importance in the humanitarian sector
  • CBL is learner-focused, giving students the power to pace, guide and build a set of competencies in a way that suits their learning needs 
  • CBL is dynamic, encouraging the use of innovative technology to implement instructional strategies such as storytelling and active learning, resulting in increased motivation and learner engagement
  • CBL assessment metrics are thoroughly aligned with a competency framework, allowing students to have a clear understanding of what is required to achieve competencies and fill any learning gaps


Competencies are at the core of each course design

Properly selected and well-defined competencies are the cornerstone of competency-based courses.  Competencies are based upon what graduates are supposed to know in the workplace and as professionals in the humanitarian sector.  At Humanitarian U, each course design starts with the elaboration of a set of competencies as defined by Subject Matter Experts in disaster and humanitarian response with the support of our instructional designers. The learning objectives of each course are carefully crafted in accordance with assessment strategies to test learners’ progress and achievement of a competency. In addition, learning activities and various resources support and enhance the learning experience. Each of our courses also includes an evaluation component to measure student satisfaction and learning effectiveness. 

Module-by-module evaluation
80% mark is required to move on to next module
Certificate of competency is granted upon completion of all course modules

Assessments are aligned with a competency framework

Assessment strategies are designed specifically to assess the proficiency of each competency, and their implementation is adapted to each learning environment:

  • Fully online programs include assessment methods for low level cognitive skills to demonstrate retention and comprehension of concepts and information that are the base for standard and professional performance. For example, level 1 is measured by mostly multiple-choice questions, while level 2 challenges the comprehension of information through case studies. 
  • Blended programs include an online course(s), in-class session(s) and a simulation exercise. These programs offer students the option to progress and achieve practical skills by participating in a classroom and simulation based training. Assessment methods aim to test the participants’ ability to apply knowledge in different settings. For example, level 3 is measured by observation of the student’s ability to demonstrate competencies in classroom activities. Assessment of level 4  competency is accomplished with the use of a real-time assessment tool that measures students’ ability to accomplish a set of activities in a pressured, dynamic and unpredictable environment similar to that of a humanitarian disaster context.  

“Our goal is to ensure that humanitarians are better prepared for field deployment by demonstrating the key knowledge, skills and attitudes. From first responders to highly specialized technicians, we save lives by improving the quality of humanitarian response.”

- Dr. Kirsten Johnson, MD, MPH
Education for humanitarian, by humanitarians